Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Do Christmas and Yoga go together?  I have to admit I am a bit of a ba humbugger sometimes.  I think Christmas is so great for my children.  Their eyes light up at the thought of Santa coming and leaving gifts under the tree.  They are so excited about leaving a magical key for Santa on the door knob so he can enter our house while they are sleeping.  They are equally as interested in preparing just the right amount of hot chocolate and leaving some delicious cookies and are so kind never to forget the reindeer's carrots.  This is what I love about Christmas.  My children are not greedy and only asked for two things each.

What I guess I get lost in is the "stuff" issue.  How much stuff is under the tree?  How much should I spend on each person?  What ever happened to giving something to someone just because you wanted to, not because they put a specific item on their list, but because out of the goodness of your heart you made something, or saw something that you thought they would love.  

I love baking for my friends and family.  I love sharing traditions and starting new ones.  I love watching my children.  I absolutely love spending the day with my family.  I try to focus on what I love, and not on all the stuff.  But as my living room piles up with toys that will be forgotten in a few days I wonder where is the yoga?

Om Shanti,
Peace to all,


I spent the day at Le Nordik spa with a very dear friend today.  WOW!  We were sitting on a bench ready and waiting for our first activity which was a relaxation massage.  This guy walks through the doors after having a massage, his hair is tousled, he looks all blissed out and can hardly focus and walking seems almost drunken and out of his mouth he says "WOW".  That pretty much sums up the day that we had.

For those who have been to Le Nordik you may agreed that it is a day of decadence and fulfillment.  It certainly was not difficult to find the yoga at all.  The massage was full of sensation and the baths and sauna's full of detoxification.  From hot to cold - I even explored my edge in the cold bath - it was about minus 10 outside already and I decided to explore the benefits of the cold bath before just dipping my toes in and running.  When I started to shiver I got out but the 7 or 8 minutes that I was in actually felt refreshing.

We finished with a lovely vegetarian lunch.  I had these wonderful dates stuffed with some kind of creamy cheese.  My friend said that watching me eat them made her feel as if she was interrupting something "special".  Really it was special.  Not just the stuffed dates but the entire day.  I chose throughout the day to be present, which is much easier when there are no distractions such as children, computers, phones, or whatever else you can think of.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Trying to find the yoga.

The more I study yogic philosophy the more I try to find the "yoga" in everything.  Sometimes this is easy sometimes not so much, but I am trying.

The other day we put up our Christmas tree.  My husband and I stayed up late to have it mostly decorated, leaving some for the kids but not too much as they also have their own little tree.  In the middle of the night our nicely decorated tree fell over, breaking a lot of our decorations.  My husband was to say the least quite annoyed.  I took a "yogic" approach and though oh well.  Yes I was a bit irritated that some of my lovely decorations were broken and that I had stayed up late, losing precious sleep, to decorate a tree that would have to be done again.  So I thought were is the yoga - well nothing is permanent, the past is done and the future is not hear yet, be present in the moment.  So I took a deep breath, got the vacuum and started doing it over.  Not thinking about how lovely it looked before because honestly I have no recollection of what it looked like before it fell.  I was happy that I would have another opportunity to decorate a tree with my children.  The sleep that was lost, I guess I can just take a nap!

Finding the yoga with situations with other people is sometimes difficult.  I am struggling with the practice of ahimsa (non harming) with satya (truthfulness).  When people say things to me that hurt my feelings, how do I bite my tongue so as to not say how I really feel and be truthful with them, at the same time avoiding a potential argument - harming myself but by not doing so I am not being true to myself.  Feels like a chicken and egg thing to me sometimes!  Perhaps I need to work on my approach the hard thing with this is the history with some individuals and the relationship dynamics does not always allow for honesty and openness.  Still working on this one!

Looking for the yoga in everything and everyone....

Om Shanti, Peace!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Week-end 5

Holy cow is all I can say!  Bramacharya - for some this is celibacy for the rest of us this is living life in moderation.  Can't we all use a little bit of moderation.  I find it quite humorous that this practice was discussed and suggested to us in our 6 month long teacher training right at the time with the Solstice and Christmas celebrations are about to begin.  I am sure that as far as the facilitators are concerned this is just the natural evolution of where we are with the yamas and niyamas - however is it a coincidence - I think not.  So bramacharya/moderation it is an ideal that we should all strive to do everything in moderation, eat, drink, shop, have sex, watch TV, exercise and the list goes on.  The reality is that most of us do not do this we eat too much, drink too much, sleep too little, watch too much TV and don't exercise enough.  Baby steps right!  I am going to strive over this very festive season to eat in moderation.  I will still enjoy, I will still sample but I will not have 18 cookies when all I really need is one, because really the next 17 never taste as good as the first one did!!!

Another concept that I love is "Now is the time for Yoga" it is the first of the Yoga Sutras.  I love it.  Live in the now man.  The past is the past, the future is not hear yet.  Yoga is not just asana it is a way of life.  Once you have tried it all, failed or succeeded, loved or not - Now is the time.  Not yesterday, not tomorrow, not in an hour but Now!  How powerful is that!

We did lots and lots of back bends and body, heart and soul opening postures.  I especially found this interesting as it has been mentioned several times in this course that you can learn a lot about yourself.  I was practicing an upward bow - it's the bridge you probably haven't done since you were five - one of my teachers was demonstrating how you can have the student hold your ankles and I did this.  I felt so afraid that I was going to push her over.  I blurted out - I feel strange relying on you....  this is evident in my life in many ways.  So through learning more ways to teach the upward bow, I learned that I have a blockage in my life.  A heart opening posture opened my heart and mind to realization.  I am not stopping here and I hope to learn more, about my body, my mind, my limits and my frustrations - bring it on because "Now Is the Time for Yoga"!!!

Shanti Om

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Yoga and Baking

I started my Christmas baking today, which you would not thing is yoga but really - it's all yoga. If the yoga traditions and postures have been handed down to us over centuries by the great yogis and sages then isn't Christmas baking also a teaching. If we look at our mothers and grandmothers as our teachers who in most cases, teach us about traditions then could they not be considered "yogis" or sages. Will my daughter who helped me dip my chocolate snowballs in icing sugar consider me her "teacher" if she does this same activity with her children - if she has them?

The Christmas baking started out by my husband asking to make chocolate mice and "5 star bars" that his mother makes. She had given me the recipe when we got married, and for him these treats have become a tradition that he likes to have. In addition to the other treats that I make, that my mother made, that my grandmother made and that her mother made and I am going to go out on a limb and assume that her mother made and so on. Again these postures and breath exercises and teachings that we use in yoga are "treats" that we give to our body, just as is the Christmas teachings or baking that I love.

I bake not necessarily for myself, although I do enjoy it, but mostly for my family and friends. Really who doesn't love it when you show up at their house with a plate full of treats. I use my baking as gifts, and again I have never had anyone say - geeze those cookies you sent - sucked!

I really try to find the yoga in every day activities. With baking or cooking for my family I feel at ease and calm and in a way I guess am practicing karma yoga (selfless yoga). I look for nothing in return as it is just what I like to do. It's all good and it's all yoga.

Om Shanti

Monday, December 7, 2009

Week-end 4

Wow is all I can say. I have taken many many courses and classes in my short life but I must say I have never been so intensely riveted as I am now. I hang on every word that my teachers speak, I am quick with my pen to write it all down, lest I forget their words or teachings. I am truly blessed to be learning so much about something that I love so much.

We had our first of three written exams this week-end. I think I did fairly well. I studied and worked hard so my hope is that it has all payed off and that I pass. I was relaxed and not very nervous going into it - let it be what it is. My hope is that I learn from my mistakes and not become fixated on getting the highest mark but doing my best.

We also had our first real set of teaching. The program is built in a way that we teach first for 5 minutes, then another week-end for 10 minutes, then another for 20 and then finally for 30 to 40minutes. It is nice that the build up is slow and the number of students is also slowly built up as well. Since I have been teaching classes for a while, teaching for such a short period of time is difficult for me so I do have to work on this. I am most looking forward to our teachers feedback as most of the people in the course I think are hesitant to say anything bad whereas I don't think our teachers will be like that.

This week we are practicing asteya, which is non-stealing. It is not just in the littoral sense of stealing items but this includes stealing thoughts, words, coveting items, time, space. My challenge for myself is to stop stealing my children's words. I find that as a parent I "rule" the roost occasionally and do not always let my children finish speaking. For example when they ask me to do something, I say no - then they try and explain why they want to do it. I often don't let them tell me and just say to them that I said no. I am going to try to let them explain without cutting off their words, my answer still may be no but at least they will have had a chance to say their bit. My second practice of asteya is to stop stealing space in our house. I have found that increasingly over the years our clutter has increased. I have one small desk for my computer and it is surrounded by papers. Our hutch in the dinning room has met a similar fate. My practice of non-stealing with space begins with clutter and tossing what we don't need or want and putting away what we do.

We have a "home" group of 5 people that we get to connect with towards the end of each week-end where we discuss the Yamas and Niyamas with and it is a great time to re-group and check in. I asked if anyone was noticing changes in their relationships with all the yoga stuff that we are doing. Some said yes and others no. I have found that some of my relationships are changing drastically. I feel closer and more connected with my husband which is great and he is in some way taking on all of these challenges with me, sometimes consciously and sometimes not. So in terms of our family life it is really improving. We had a pretty great relationship before - not without its issues of course, but it is getting even better and I am thrilled about that. I am finding that my relationship with someone else who I am close to in my life is becoming more difficult. I am still trying to put it together in my head how to deal with this one. I cannot force what I am learning on this person but I know the benefits it could have on their lifestyle and our already strained relationship... The changes in myself are really great. My house is staying cleaner, I am getting rid of clutter, my diet is much better and I am feeling healthier and more alive. I am listening more to conversations most of the time rather than speaking so I am learning more about the people around me and just letting them speak and I am enjoying it. There is lots more to work on, but these are unexpected surprises and I am sure that there will be more.

More studying to do for next week-end. I swear I live for yoga, in that I mean - it's all yoga! Yoga truly is a way of life and not just pretzel like positions of the body.

Hari Om

Thursday, December 3, 2009

11 minutes

I always wondered why some yogis suggested doing certain activities for 11 minutes, or a minimum of 11 minutes or 11 minutes or longer. So I asked the question and apparently our brain cycles in 11 minute cycles. So I have been meditating for 11 minutes or more every day since October 26th (I missed a day because I was at a birth). Apparently the goal is to work up to 31 minutes. Then you can balance the various systems in the body. Starting with 11 minutes is because our mind cycles in 11 minute increments. I think that explains why you may have a thought and then about 11 minutes later have that same thought again... I am still working this one out.

The goal of mediation is not to block everything out or to push all thoughts down and repress them. Rather it is to quiet the mind. A similar feeling is if you have ever been driving and wonder how you got from a to b because you can't remember - then your mind was probably in a meditative state. The act of sitting in meditation is actively meditating rather than the passive mediation that happens when you are doing repetitive tasks like driving or reading.

I have been practicing the 11 minute minimum for almost a month and a half now and it is hard to tell what is going on. The minimum date limit to do these types of practices is 40 days. As I mentioned I had to miss a day because of a birth so I needed to start over again. In reality I am only a week and a half or so in. The point of the 40 days is to try to break up old habits. I am not exactly sure if that is happening yet but I am noticing some changes. The other difficulty is that with our training we are practicing ahimsa and satya and those practices as well are likely to change a person as well.

Some of the things I have noticed with my meditation practice are that it takes me less time to get into a meditative state, I am always surprised that it has been 11 minutes already (I have a timer), my back no longer hurts in mediation, my arms and legs rarely go numb anymore - although I am less aware of my limbs. I have less random thoughts running around in my head. The tasks that I am either given to do, or chose my self I start and finish. I am becoming much more calm with my children. With the exception of my daughter waking me in the night to nurse, I am sleeping more deeply. I am trying to become more aware of other changes but some of those are readily available and I am noticing them. This is kind of cool!!!

My challenge to anyone who may read this, today, tomorrow, next week, month or next year - try a 40 day mediation for a minimum of 11 minutes every day and let me know what happens.